Thursday, 10 September 2009


Derek Fincham has now added an update to his post calling for archaeologists and preservationists to compromise. He says of some Barford guy:
He uses as examples of things which should not be compromised: the collection of wild bird eggs, drink driving, ivory poachers and child abuse. Unfortunately he doesn't follow through with any of these analogs (sic), and they strike me as a bit bizarre.
Why "bizarre"? I made the point that nobody in their right mind calls for those concerned about issues like these to "compromise" with those that want a carte blanche to do them. My question was, why does Fincham think specifically archaeologists should compromise? He, of course, did not answer, just calls the reasoning "bizarre".

What is truly bizarre is that he writes "There exists broad consensus that looting of sites is a problem, and should be illegal". Well, not only "should" it be, but it is in most countries that have inhabitants other than penguins.

Apparently this Barford guy: "seems to take every instance of looting as an indication that "stronger" laws are needed. But of course he never gives any concrete details". Do I? I rather think I pretty consistently place the blame more on could-not-care-less dealers and buyers. So I can hardly give concrete details of the laws I'd see to stop looting when (a) laws exist and (b) I see the problem elsewhere.

Precisely in the wimpish whinging and whining that we need to reach some kind of a "compromise" (or God-forbid a "partnership") with the people that are the cause of the problem.

Anyone able to read plain English sees that the 1970 UNESCO Convention is NOT a convention to stop looting. Its called "Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property". It is about the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of cultural property between countries. Not a spade, metal detector, bulldozer or coin zapper mentioned.

But I'll answer Dr Fincham's questions:
"has there been a decrease in the looting of sites?" [since 1970]. In a word, no.

"Is it all because of collectors?" In a word, yes.

Yes it is. The "inevitable result" of people willing to buy through illicit channels goods that are otherwise restricted is that a black market comes into being. I have no doubt that there are black market buyers of osprey eggs, Amur Tiger skins and pots grubbed up out of Anasazi graves. Does that mean that we should "compromise" over the laws that protect them because there is always some troglodyte who will always want to buy them anyway? Or should we get to work on the troglodytes?

It is of course not true to say that this blog "does not allow commenting". This is not a numismatic or metal detecting blog. There's a little comment thingy in the legend at the bottom of this post. If metal detectorists can find it to send abusive comments and threats, I am sure Dr Fincham can too.

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